Gabriela Martinez

Gabriela Martinez, fourth-year biological sciences and Chicano/Latino studies major, is an undergrad recipient of the Justice and Equity Research Paper Award. The honor recognizes her paper, “Analyzing Health Seeking Behaviors in First-Generation Latinos,” for excellence in addressing race, racism, equity, justice, and other related topics. Below, she shares what inspires her work and her plans to become a doctor.

What made you decide to pursue your current field of study, and specifically at UCI? What interests you most about your work?

I decided to double major in biological sciences and Chicano/Latino studies because I want to use my passion for science and medicine to make an impact in my community in the future, most likely as a doctor. I currently do research focusing on antibiotic resistance at the Ulloa Lab at UCI’s School of Medicine, and I would love to someday be a doctor specializing in infectious diseases and conduct research that is specific to my community, and how they are affected by infectious diseases. I decided to pursue my degrees at UCI because it is known to be a research institution, and I wanted to be able to get  research experience while completing my studies. UCI is also very close to my hometown, LA. Family is important to me, and I wanted to be able to still be connected to my family throughout my undergraduate journey. 

When do you plan to finish your degree and what are your plans thereafter?

I am set to graduate this spring 2024. I am currently a UC PRIME Pre-Health Pathways (UC3P) scholar, and I was recently awarded the UC3P Fellowship to continue working as a researcher at my current lab (Ulloa Lab) for the next year. After completing my fellowship, I plan to complete a special master’s program to be better prepared to eventually apply to an M.D./Ph.D. program.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment at UCI?

I’d say one of my biggest accomplishments at UCI is being able to meet and connect with so many amazing mentors and friends. They have truly been such an important part of my success at UCI, and have also helped me through challenges.

I have been awarded the following during my time at UCI:

  • SACNAS Travel Scholarship (2022)
  • Cynthia Brown STEM Scholarship (2022)
  • Nava Family CAMP Scholarship (2022)
  • Summer Research Scholar’s Program (2022)
  • Excellence in Research (2022)
  • UC PRIME Pre-Health Pathways (UC3P) scholar (2023)
  • CHC/LAT Studies Departmental Certificate in Social Determinants of Health in Latino Communities (2024)
  • Jeff Garcilazo Paper Prize (2024)

What activities have you been or are you currently involved with on campus and in the community?

During my entire time at UCI, I’ve been part of a worship band at my home church. I play piano and also sing, and being part of this band is important to me. I’ve also worked with kids and teens at my home church and served as a mentor for them, especially when it comes to academics. I am also part of Delight Ministries at UCI. This student organization holds a very important place in my heart, as I’ve met so many amazing friends there.

Are you involved in undergraduate research at UCI?  If so, explain what you are studying.

I am part of the Ulloa Lab at UCI’s School of Medicine. My research focuses on developing more effective treatments for Enterococcus Faecalis (E. Faecalis), a pathogen that is highly resistant to antibiotic treatments. 

Who has played an important mentorship role in your life thus far and why? Specifically at UCI?

My PI at my current lab, Dr. Ulloa, has definitely had a significant impact in my life. She has always pushed me to do my very best, and has always listened to me and offered advice during times of uncertainty during my undergraduate career. She really cares about her students, and she wants us all to succeed. 

Are there any unique circumstances/life experiences that have played a major role in where and who you are today? What challenges or hurdles have you faced in getting to where you are today?

Starting college in the middle of a pandemic was definitely challenging for me. I am the only child, and no one in my extended family had ever majored in STEM, so I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to the quarter system’s fast pace. It felt very isolating, and even when we did go back in person, it felt like I had to adjust all over again. This definitely affected my academics, and I felt very discouraged for some time that I wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped. However, I learned to accept and learn from my mistakes and challenges, and also started to find opportunities to mentor other first-generation students who also found themselves struggling during undergrad. It’s important to learn from our challenges, and also help others who may be going through the same thing.

Where can you most often be found on campus?

Definitely at the Ulloa Lab! Whenever I’m not in class, I’m usually there running an experiment or working on homework. It’s a great place to study and be productive.

What’s your best memory thus far from your undergraduate experience at UCI? 

I was involved in many CAMP activities at UCI, and one of the most memorable ones was participating in the Expanding Communities and Encouraging Leadership (EXCEL) course during the Winter quarter of my first year. I met some of my closest friends in this class, and CAMP has been an amazing source of mentorship for me during my time in undergrad.

Any other interesting tidbits you would like to share?

Apart from my studies, I also love the arts, and spend a lot of time painting, drawing, writing, and doing music during my free time. Even though I want to go to medical school, I always want to keep doing art on my own time, and also find ways to incorporate it into what I do.

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